The Institute of National Remembrance’s Search and Identification Bureau has completed the second stage of work in Vilnius at Kalwaria Vilnius, where remains belonging to nine Home Army soldiers who died during the ‘Operation Ostra Brama’ in 1944 were discovered. ‘We have no doubt that these are Home Army soldiers, as we also found buttons with the eagle in the crown, as well as eagle emblems from their hats,’ said Prof. Krzysztof Szwagrzyk to ‘Codzienna.’ This is not the end of the search operations in this location.
The Battle of Krawczuny took place on July 13, 1944, and it was the last battle for Vilnius fought between the Home Army and the Wehrmacht forces. The Poles emerged victorious, dealing a serious blow to the Germans, but not without losses on our side. The fallen Home Army soldiers were buried in collective graves on the grounds of Kalwaria Vilnius, near the statue of the Virgin Mary. According to various sources, between 30 and 76 individuals were buried there. Two decades after the war, the Soviets destroyed the Kalwaria area, demolishing chapels and religious objects. In 1979, exhumations of the soldiers’ remains were carried out at the burial site, and the recovered remains were transferred to a nearby cemetery near the Calvary Church.
The Institute of National Remembrance received numerous signals that the work done in 1979 was not conducted carefully. Therefore, the Search and Identification Bureau decided to initiate further archaeological and exhumation work. As a result, remains belonging to nine Home Army soldiers were uncovered, along with various artifacts such as buttons, medals, fragments of uniforms, and military equipment.
‘The Search and Identification Bureau began its work a few weeks ago at a well-known location in Vilnius, where the remains of nearly 80 Home Army soldiers killed in the Battle of Krawczuny in 1944 were buried. The initial burial site, where the remains were placed in several pits, was appropriately arranged and commemorated in 1944. However, over the years of communism, this place underwent continuous degradation. In 1979, the Council for the Protection of Memory of Struggle and Martyrdom, in agreement with Soviet authorities, conducted actions there, as a result of which some of the remains were exhumed and moved elsewhere,’ said Prof. Szwagrzyk to ‘Codzienna.’
He also revealed that the exhumations carried out in 1979 resembled the work done during the People’s Republic of Poland era at the ‘Łączka’ site at the Powązki Military Cemetery in Warsaw.
‘We found traces of the use of an excavator here. This method involved picking up skulls, torsos, spines, leaving the lower parts of the skeletons, from the pelvis down to the feet. We discovered eight such damaged remains due to the excavator and one complete one. The latter likely belongs to an officer, a deduction based on the remains of officer boots and a leather bag, commonly known as a dispatch case, which was essential equipment for a higher-ranking soldier,’ Prof. Szwagrzyk stated.
Prof. Szwagrzyk was also asked whether the Institute of National Remembrance plans to return to Kalwaria Vilnius for further work.
‘This was not the last stage. In the spring of next year, we will return to this place to examine the remaining pits where the remains of our heroes might be resting. These actions will allow us to help identify individuals about whom nothing was previously known. We will be able to restore names and surnames to these soldiers,’ emphasized the Deputy President of the Institute of National Remembrance.
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‘Codzienna’ also asked Prof. Szwagrzyk for information about other planned activities by the Search and Identification Bureau of the Institute of National Remembrance scheduled for later this year. ‘These will be operations at the Osobowicki Cemetery in Wrocław, the Military Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw, and the Bródno Cemetery in Warsaw. These are the three nearest locations, and I assure you that they are not the last ones this year where the Search and Identification Bureau of the Institute of National Remembrance will undertake work,’ said Prof. Krzysztof Szwagrzyk.